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Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Consider that, in English, there are generally three kinds of plurals. Either you add an "s" (road, roads), you change the word (mouse, mice), or nothing changes (deer, deer). But what about a word like "corn"? Easy, right? It's like deer; there's no such thing as corns, at least when talking about the grain.
But now consider the whole sentence: "Look at all this corn". Even when it's plural, it's singular. This corn, not these corn. Implied is some modifier, like this patch of corn. We don't say look at "this deer", implying a herd. Talking it over, we realized this is true for almost all grain products. Corn, wheat, rye, etc... no one ever says "look at these wheat" in the way they would say "look at these tomatoes". Or if they do, it's only with a modifier like "look at these wheat plants".
Thinking it over more, I realized it's a grammatical structure used for many nouns describing small particles always handled in bulk. Consider that "sand" and "gravel" work the same way; who grabs a handful at the beach and says "look at these sands" the way they might "look at these pebbles"? "Get those rocks off my lawn" is fine, but "get those gravels off my lawn" sounds absurd. Implied is "grains of", but it's never spoken and ends up feeling very strange grammatically.
Can anyone think of other instances where a noun is plural but used in the singular, even when referring to just a few of the noun? And does anyone have an idea about why this usage would have evolved just in this instance?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Most local readers probably already learned this from other sources, but I wanted to post it here as well to brag to out-of-towners and to continue the well-earned accolades for all involved. It's a source of real pride that our area can continue to develop excellent chefs with good connections to local foods; the folks at CACC have always been strong supporters of local farmers and the market. Many graduates at this program have moved on to real jobs in Columbia and elsewhere, just the kind of thing that proper education should result in.
From the Tribune:
Rachel Koppelman, who graduated from Rock Bridge earlier this month, earned first in the nation in the Skills USA Culinary Arts section. She earns a full-ride scholarship to her choice of the following schools: Culinary Institute of America, Johnson and Wales University, New England Culinary Institute, or Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America.
Meghan Hardman, who will be a senior at Rock Bridge, placed second in the Commercial Baking category. She likely will receive many scholarship offers, Harlan said.
Show Me Eats has the original announcement.
Our thorough congratulations to everyone involved.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
That's just a bit more rain than we needed. But at least it came all at once; better this than .5" every day for five days. This will still dry out over the next few sunny days post-cold front. But, yeah, some overkill there.
Friday, June 25, 2010
NEW THIS WEEK
Possibly the first few pints of Fin de Bagnol filet beans; these are starting to produce and may have enough for a small market harvest.
Bundles of small-medium beets, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, snow peas (at their end), mixed summer squash, fresh garlic heads, and scallions.
POSSIBLE IF WE DECIDE TO
There is a chance of items like basil, cilantro, parsley, and fennel bulbs depending on last-minute decisions.
Carrots were a one-time item. Clearly people want carrots, and every year we get better at growing them. We're doing more this fall, when they should be sweeter and even better. Peas are done after this week, because the plants stopped flowering in the heat.
Fennel is close, likely next week if not this one. Fin de Bagnol beans for sure next week. Cucumbers and tomatillos are flowering now. Much more on the way for mid-summer.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Joanna found this gray tree frog hanging out in the prep shed; they're very friendly and extremely photogenic. It even took a flying leap onto my face at one point, and hung there from my forehead quite contentedly until Joanna stopped laughing long enough to peel it off again.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Summer is here, and so are zucchini. Here's a collection of our favorite ways to use substantial quantities of zucchini and other summer squash. Any summer squash (green, yellow, straight, patty pan, round, etc.) can be used interchangeably in these recipes. The ribbed Costata Romanesco squash have extra nice flavor, so we favor using those in dishes where they really stand out, as for a simple side dish of skillet-cooked zucchini or for zucchini on the grill.
Zucchini soup: This is a favorite recipe of ours. Joanna grew up with a version of this, and we've tweaked the recipe over the years to make it more vegetarian friendly and less dependent on bacon for flavor. We freeze many, many quarts of this and use it as fast food during the rest of the year. Good straight or served over some kind of cooked grain (rice, buckwheat, quinoa, etc.).
Zucchini cookies: These are tasty, moist cookies packed with raisins and nuts. They freeze well.
Zucchini bread: There are infinite versions of this, but this is our standard recipe.
Disappearing zucchini orzo: A tasty meal that can be on the table in under half an hour. From Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Zucchini chocolate chip cookies: Also from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Frozen shredded zucchini: Many of the above recipes involve baking, something that doesn't always sound appealing at summer temperatures. Zucchini bread & cookies can be baked with frozen shredded zucchini, extending the season for these items year round. We simply grate the zucchini, pack it into quart containers or bags, and put it in the freezer. We defrost it in the refrigerator for a couple of days before using, drain some of the liquid, and bake as normal. Frozen, shredded zucchini also makes a nice addition to winter soups/stews.
Any type of summer squash can be used in these moist, tasty cookies. This recipe makes a big batch, so think twice before doubling. Extras freeze well.
4¼ cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
½ -1 tsp cloves, ground
1 tsp salt
2-3 cups grated zucchini/summer squash (approx. 2 medium squash)
1½ -2 cups sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup yogurt
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
2 cups raisins
• Pull butter out of refrigerator and allow it to warm up for a few minutes.
• In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.
• In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and yogurt. Use a large wooden spoon if doing this by hand. Add eggs and combine thoroughly.
• Add zucchini to wet ingredients and mix.
• Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir just enough to combine.
• Fold in nuts and raisins.
• Drop batter by the spoonful on greased cookie sheets.
• Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
3 cups flour (up to 50% whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup oil (such as canola)
½ cup yogurt
1½ cups sugar (or 1 cup sugar & 1/2 cup honey)
zest from 2 small lemons
1½ tsp vanilla
2-3 cups grated zucchini/summer squash (approx. 2 medium squash)
1 cup raisins
2/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
• Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
• Grease and flour 2 loaf pans or one bundt pan.
• In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
• In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients. Cream oil, sugar, and yogurt. Add eggs and combine. Mix in vanilla, lemon zest, and zucchini.
• Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
• Fold in raisins and nuts.
• Transfer batter to pan(s).
• Bake 45-60 minutes for loaf pans, or closer to 70 minutes for a bundt pan, until toothpick comes out clean. [Sorry for the vague cooking times; we typed up this recipe when we were living in National Park Service housing with very unreilable ovens, and I never seem to remember to remember to write down the actual cooking time in a well-behaved oven.]
• Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
--Weeding. This is never-ending, especially with the abundant rainfall this year. Mostly we're on top of it, though some of the aisles between beds are looking pretty jungle-like. Employees have been a big (and good-natured) help on this front. Overall things look pretty good.
--Harvest. We're past the once-a-week stage that characterizes spring, when you just have to cut lettuces, pull radishes, and so on before market. Items like peas, green beans, edamame, squash, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and more need to be checked regularly to get things at peak freshness and quality. We generally follow a 36-48 hour harvest schedule, though summer squash will need to be near-daily. Sunday-Tuesday items go to restaurants, and Tuesday-Friday items go to Saturday market.
We're about to begin the garlic harvest, which is a major undertaking over about three weeks. Each variety is pulled, sorted into four grades, bundled, and hung to cure. Overall we have a couple thousand heads in the ground, about a quarter of which will become this fall's planting stock. For the next few weeks we'll bring fresh green garlic heads to market, then transition to cured heads once the harvest is complete.
--Preparing fall plantings. Believe it or not, it's already time to start planning for fall, as many of the things we'll be selling September-November need to get started soon. Fall is a major sales season for us, and takes a lot of mid-summer work when it's too hot out. Working out the exact planting plans, and starting the first transplants indoors, is now on the agenda.
--Finishing other projects. I'm almost done building the much-needed walk-in cooler, hoping to have it operational on a trial basis by this weekend. We still have three geese to butcher, though it's too hot right now. We'd like to finish mowing/trimming the roads, paths, and aisles around the farm, which we can do bit by bit before getting too hot.
--Food preservation. We're now entering the season of abundance, when along with all the farm work we need to put in time preserving our winter food supply. We've already been freezing peas, beet greens, and so on, but now that squash are arriving with tomatoes, beans, and more on the way, canning & freezing will take more and more time. We also rely on local sources for the vast majority of our fruit, so for much of the summer I'll be coming home from market with loads of cherries, peaches, apples, and so on to preserve. This is often an uncomfortably hot task in a hot summer kitchen, but needs to be done.
--Irrigation. As recently noted, I eventually need to start laying out and hooking up irrigation. Procrastination and irrigation are virtually synonymous in my brain.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The source of water for irrigation matters a lot. County water lines are most reliable and give good pressure, but cost money which can really add up at the acre scale. Private wells are nice, but very expensive to drill if you don't already have one, and have you at the mercy of the pump and other conditions. Drawing water from ponds is cheapest, but still requires some form of pump (gas, electric) which will also cost money to run and may be unreliable when you need it most. Ponds also put you at greatest risk of contaminated water, such as if wild or domestic fowl use your pond frequently and that water is piped right onto your lettuce. This is also true for farms that wash produce with water from a similar source. For organic certification, you have to do regular water tests to prove your water is clean, unless it's coming from an already clean source like county water lines (which we use).
Irrigation in the field can be achieved in many forms. Easiest are the various forms of sprinkler, which can be set up with a simple garden hose and arranged to cover a wide area, then moved as needed. Multiple sprinklers, larger area covered. The major downside here is water efficiency, as they will lose a lot to wind, evaporation, and spotty coverage. Plus, it's impossible to avoid watering aisles and other areas that don't need it, and hard to target specific crops. Sprinklers are a great option for a small home garden, but can use a helluva lot of water at the acre scale. This is both an ethical concern, and an economic one if your water costs money of any form.
Various forms of drip irrigation are another answer. These involve plastic hoses with holes in them to let water out. The simplest really are just holey; fancier ones have pressure regulators at each opening so that the same flow emerges along the entire length, rather than losing pressure along a long line. These also come in various lifespans, from cheaper drip tapes that need to be thrown out every year, to heavier-duty hoses that can last up to five years. Here, too, are the ethical/economic concerns: do you save time and bother by using the cheap disposable hoses every year (acres of vegetables take a LOT of plastic hose), or do you invest in the long-term stuff which is far more work to carefully roll up in the fall and store properly every winter, but keeps your dumpster empty? Longer-term hose is also more subject to frost damage, a particular concern in our frost-prone valley.
When we started the farm four years ago, we invested in enough heavy-duty irrigation line to handle the market garden area. In 2007, this was a great call, as we had a very dry summer in which the farm recorded no meaningful rainfall from mid-June through mid-October. Since then, we've had two straight cool/wet years in which we never needed irrigation other than using hand-held hoses to moisten new seedbeds & transplants. This year, I fully expect to need irrigation at some point as I think it will be a hotter and drier (more typical) growing season, and we're expanding our growing area significantly every year, so we'll have some things to figure out.
When it comes to farm management overall, we absolutely refuse to use disposable materials like black plastic, one-year drip line, and so on. We've proud of the minimal waste stream coming off the farm, and of the smaller budget that results from not buying such things. So our irrigation choices will likely involve some combination of heavier-duty drip lines and sprinklers. We also use other methods to minimize water loss and need, such as heavy mulching on many beds to hold in moisture.
Still, as we enter a long hot spell, I can't put off dealing with irrigation much longer. It's always tempting to keep waiting, hoping for rain, in order to save a lot of time and effort. That's what happened the last two years. With 1.5 acres under cultivation, though, we need to get this year's system set up before it becomes an emergency and we spend all our time standing out there with a hose. So that becomes a looming project very soon.
Friday, June 18, 2010
This tasty and colorful pasta is a great way to use early summer beets.
1 bunch beets
1–2 Tbl butter
1 Tbl. cider vinegar
1 Tbl. olive oil
2 cloves garlic or alliums of choice
~2 ounces cheese, crumbled or grated
1 bunch chives (optional)
1/2 pound pasta of choice
Thinly slice (or grate) the beet roots. Heat butter in a skillet on low-medium heat. Add beets and cook until tender, ~10–15 min. Season with cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Remove from heat & set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Check the recommended cooking time for the pasta. The goal is to time the pasta so it finishes cooking when the greens are done.
Mince the garlic. Wash the beet greens and slice into thin ribbons. Mince chives, if using. Start to cook the pasta in salted, boiling water.
Heat olive oil in a skillet on low heat. Eight or so minutes before the pasta is done, sauté the garlic in the oil for a minute or so. Add the greens & cook until tender, approx. 4-6 minutes. Add the cheese & chives (if using).
When the pasta is al dente, drain it. Toss beets, greens, and pasta together. Serve with extra cheese.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
NEW THIS WEEK
We'll have a one-time batch of carrots. These were interplanted with our radishes, and now need to come out to make room for okra. So we'll harvest the whole batch and bring them in. Should be a nice treat for those who get them.
Also new will be some green garlic heads, the first harvest of the year. Again, we probably won't bring lots, but enough to start the garlic season properly.
Swiss chard, baby/pickling beets, scallions, summer squash, a few kohlrabi (these have been amazing so far), snow peas, a few snap peas, a few bundles of cilantro.
Probably a few more things my heat-addled brain isn't thinking of right now. You get the idea.
Scallions (two varieties)
Baby squash (three varieties)
Parsley (three varieties)
Dried tomatoes (from last year)
Goat's milk ricotta
All this, chopped and combined with bulghur, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. That's 18 varieties of 13 kinds of produce, plus on-farm milk. Yummy.
Oh, and for those who care about biodiversity, that's at least seven biological familes:
Alliums (garlic, onions)
Umbelliferae (carrot family)
Solanaceae (tomato family)
Brassicas (broccoli et al.)
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
The following is not meant as a comment directly on JF&G, but more on the general pattern of how our society treats non-profits and actual businesses. As the co-owner (with my wife) of a small, direct-market certified organic vegetable farm in Boone County, I am somewhat bemused by the resources and budget available to a non-profit doing essentially the same thing we are.
We grow over 200 varieties of produce, fruit, beans, and small grains, along with poultry and meat & dairy goats. Over the last 4 years, we’ve invested most of our resources in our farm (including our private residence), the total sum of which is considerably less than the initial federal earmark for JF&G. Our business continues to grow and now has four (very) part-time employees. We sell our products at the Columbia Farmers Market, generating and remitting sales tax revenue. We pay property taxes on our land and home, and income taxes on our profits. We happily offer tours of our diversified operation, at $8/head to cover our basic time expenditure to do so. From what I’ve read, there is little one could learn from touring JF&G that could not be learned from touring private farms like ours.
We work very hard at our business and are proud of our success so far, though our long term economic success is by no means guaranteed. We do not apply for or receive any grants, subsidies, or handouts for our farm. The only government money we’ve ever taken is the Missouri cost-share program for our Organic certification, which pays up to 75% of certification costs (capped at $750; ours was under $400 last year).
So I am bemused to read that a non-profit farm can receive millions of dollars of tax-free money, use volunteer labor (technically illegal for a private business like ours), pay no taxes itself, and still be $3 million short. I know multiple good folks in Boone County who have the skills, experience, work ethic, and active desire to start small market/CSA farms, but who do not have the capital to do so because it is very difficult to get a loan for such a business. $500,000 would buy five of these folks 10 acres each, even at an inflated Boone County price of $10,000/acre, enabling them to start five new tax-generating businesses that would diversify our rural economy.
I have nothing really personal against JF&G, it’s a nice idea which could become a good tourist attraction if done well. But I do resent our society’s and government’s general assumption that non-profits are always preferable and more knowledgeable than private entrepreneurs doing the same thing on their own bootstraps. It’s frustrating to see money showered on anything that doesn’t commit the cardinal sin of actually trying to earn money. It’s also frustrating to know that we could earn a better salary working for a non-profit farm than for ourselves; the only volunteers allowed a for-profit business are the owners.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
This afternoon we delivered snap peas & garlic scapes to Sycamore, snap peas & snow peas to Main Squeeze, and garlic scapes to Tiger Hotel Catering. This last is a fun story; she called us about ten minutes before we left for town, asking about microgreens for an event tomorrow night. We didn't have any, but offered garlic scapes, and she jumped at the chance for 2lb worth, which was what we had left from the morning's harvest after packing up Sycamore's order. Good timing, Tiger.
We like restaurant sales, because they're easier and more efficient for us (no market time & fees), the product is of better quality (no sitting out on the market stand), it's tax-free, and it's cool to have our products on the menus of some of the area's best restaurants. The places we work with give us a really fair price, and we do our best to give them top-notch produce in return. We expect to make regular deliveries almost every week from now on through the season. Uprise, too, has bought a lot from us but often gets items at the market. Support & thank the folks at places like this who go out of their way to support farms like us.